Green Lantern doesn’t shine half as bright as it should have. What should have been an epic Star Wars style sci-fi blockbuster, ended up being a big green joke. Compared to the competition, the 2000’s were a rather uneventful decade for DC comics movies. The only DC universe superheroes that ever got attention were Superman and Batman. Along with a few stray graphic novel adaptations. The only other well known hero to take shape was Green Lantern. Like most DC characters up to that point, I didn’t know much about the Emerald Knight. Other than knowing he was a key member of the Justice League.
Green Lantern was first created in 1940 as the more mystical Alan Scott. Similar to what was done with the Flash, Green Lantern was reintroduced in 1959 as the more popular intergalactic space hero Hal Jordan. The more I learned, the more excited I was to go see it. The idea for a movie swirled around since the late 90’s. At one point an awful sounding Jack Black comedy was nearly made, but thankfully fans killed that idea. The 2011 movie became the first DC project that eventual Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti had a hand in. With Bond and Zorro director Martin Campbell at the helm and rising star Ryan Reynolds as the lead, what could possibly go wrong…
Green Lantern does everything wrong and everything right. The Green Lantern mythos is one of the most original, unique, and complex in all of DC comics. So incorporating all of it into a 2 hour movie was tricky to say the least. Although it is commendable that they stay faithful to the bizarre source material, Green Lantern still fails for a number of reasons. The opening crams in every bit of complicated exposition it can about the Green Lantern Corps. Like the comics, the Corps is an intergalactic peacekeeping police force that protects 3,600 sectors throughout the universe. They were founded by a group of big headed blue aliens with white hair and red robes known as the Guardians of the Universe. Who reside on the planet Oa. We learn all that and more before ever meeting our hero.
Hal Jordan is the second Green Lantern, but the first to join the Green Lantern Corps. Hal is a cocky fearless test pilot that was always the most popular character to take on the mantle. Even though other members like Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner were notable as well. Hal Jordan/Green Lantern is Ryan Reynolds third comic book superhero in a row. Reynolds did his best, but Hal being a comedic playboy doesn’t line up well with the character. The movie also spends way too much time on Hal’s life on Earth. We see how he tragically lost his pilot father as a child, we see him visit his older brother and nephew, we see him fly planes in an extended sequence, and so much more.
Supporting characters on Earth include his engineer friend Thomas Kalmaku (I’ll bet you forgot Taika Waititi was in this) and true love Carol Ferris. Carol is a high ranking member of Ferris Aircraft who later became the far more interesting Star Sapphire in the comics. At least one positive to come out of Green Lantern was that Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds fell in love during filming. Things finally get going when purple alien Abin Sur (played by Temuera Morrison) is attacked by the primary antagonist. An evil parasitic life form called Parallax. In the comics, Parallax is a creature composed of yellow fear energy. In the movies, Parallax is a brown space fart with hints of yellow.
In a manner very accurate to the comics, Hal Jordan discovers the dying alien and is given the power ring. Which requires a green lantern to charge. Another huge reason Green Lantern failed was the over abundance of CGI. Specifically the poorly rendered Green Lantern costume. While a CGI costume wasn’t a horrible idea, it should have looked way better than this. Unlike the way the comic balances green with black & white, the movie suit is just green on green. With a mask that doesn’t translate well to live-action. The power ring uses willpower to construct whatever the user imagines. It’s an awesome superpower that looks more bland than creative. Hal’s constructs consist of a green fist, race track, swords, guns, and planes.
Then there’s the Green Lantern Corps. Every single alien member has a name and background in the comics, but in the movie they’re just glorified CGI extras. The only exceptions are instructor Tomar-Re and combat trainer Kilowog. Voiced by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan in his final role before passing away. But the only actor that’s trying is Mark Strong. He brings the pink fallen Lantern Sinestro to life. Unfortunately the film makes the terrible decision not to make Hal’s archenemy the main antagonist. Save for a mid-credits scene of Sinestro wearing the yellow ring that goes nowhere. Instead they chose the ridiculously obscure Hector Hammond. A big headed scientist played by a screeching Peter Sarsgaard. An awful villain that forces Hal to stay on Earth far too long. And let’s thrown in Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller, why not?
When Parallax is punched into the sun, Green Lantern ends with a lesson about overcoming fear. I just wish the movie could have overcome a seriously inconsistent boring tone. One of the major DC superheroes shouldn’t have a meta tone or jokes made at the characters expense. That’s why I’m still annoyed by the movie’s failure. I even memorized the oath: “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!” He’s a cool character that doesn’t deserve to be the butt of so many (funny) jokes. Or overlooked in a team that he helped found (*cough* Justice League). Green Lantern was a waste of good willpower.